Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kavanaugh’s Rage and Self-Pity Should Be Enough to Disqualify His Nomination to the United States Supreme Court


Regardless of the FBI investigation of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, do we want a Supreme Court Justice who lacks self-control, integrity, and impartiality but not hubris; a person who is also entitled, unprincipled, noncommittal, vitriolic, vindictive, conspiratorial, mendacious, fractious, temperamental and self-pitying? 

Kavanaugh’s rage is surely commensurate with his sense of entitlement, his stunted emotional development; his blustering conspiratorial theories; his displacement; his irrelevant, repetition of his qualifications; his appeal to pity and ridicule; his selected instances; his begging the question; his purposeful diversions; and his inconsequential rationalizations—Glen Brown

“Beyond whatever was self-serving and pure lies in Kavanaugh's testimony, what we saw—the operatic rage, the contempt, the tears, the fury, the hauteur, the blinking anxiety—was the expression of one of the experiences that I tried to identify in my book as being at the heart of conservatism: not just loss, but felt loss. And not just ambient sorrow but a militant avowal of desired recovery. 

“When conservatism is in its ascendancy, it is able to connect that particular feeling of loss, the loss of one social class, to a more universal constituency. When it is in retreat, it has a much more difficult time making that sense of loss speak across the population, of making it travel far and wide. In the coming weeks and months, we'll see which of the two situations we're in... 

All the things that repelled us—the rage, the contempt, the tears—were exactly what his constituency identified with. Because it was expressing something quite real: that he is facing a genuine threat to his position, not just on the Supreme Court but as a sexual harasser, as a man who has the right to control women, to expect women to be his playthings, as an elite man who did all the right things that come with his class privilege (both going to Yale and Yale Law School, working his way up the judicial ladder, and the homo-social male bonding of treating women with contempt), and he is now facing the prospect of losing it all. 

Not losing his judgeship, obviously, but losing the trajectory of power that he was on. I think to his constituency those things are very real—and if the left is doing its job, his constituency isn't wrong to feel these things are losses. Because they are losses. That doesn't mean the losses aren't justified! They are justified. But for people with privilege and power, justice and equity and fairness are genuine constraints and losses”—Corey Robin

“…[Kavanaugh] is not suited to a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because of his self-pity and rage. Because of the way he shredded the idea that he can be an impartial arbiter on the high court when he accused Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of seeking ‘revenge on the behalf of the Clintons’ and ‘left-wing opposition groups.’

“Because of the insulting way he spoke to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar when she asked whether he ever drank so much he could not remember what happened. (‘You're talking about a blackout,’ he said in a nasty tone. ‘I don't know. Have you?).

“Because he refused to give a straight answer about whether he would support an FBI investigation into Ford's charges. Because he interrupted Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal who was in the middle of asking a question, then had the cluelessness to say, ‘Let me finish.’

“Kavanaugh's anger may be understandable in a man who claims — hyperbolically — that his life and family have been ‘destroyed’ by what he says are false allegations of sexual assault. But they are hardly what we deserve or expect in a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has so much control over Americans' lives, especially women's…
“It was clear that Kavanaugh's Judiciary Committee supporters don't particularly care whether or not he assaulted Ford all those years ago at a high school party. And they knew — all 11 men — that they could not trust themselves to come off as caring, so they hired Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor, whose plodding questions seemed to infuriate them. They wanted fireworks. She was a wet blanket.

“Their pent-up rage exploded after Ford finished her testimony. They sidelined Mitchell, and turned their wrath on Democrats, who were accused of withholding information in order to delay the confirmation until after the midterm elections, when Democrats have a fighting chance of gaining the majority in the Senate and could scuttle Kavanaugh's nomination.

“In tones verging on hysteria, they railed about the timing of the allegations (as if there is a good time to step forward alleging you've been attacked by a Supreme Court nominee). I've never seen a theatrical outburst like Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's display of self-righteous anger, sparked by Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin's simple assertion that if Kavanaugh truly cared about clearing his good name, he should want to have the FBI investigate Ford's claims. ‘God help anyone else that gets nominated,’ Graham said, forgetting that Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed last year with barely a ripple.

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said to Democrats on the panel: ‘What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020. You’ve said that, not me.’ Sen. Orrin G. Hatch's outraged voice broke as he scornfully dismissed the idea that anyone would care what had happened in high school. And yet, Ford had very specifically discussed the ‘anxiety, phobia and PTSD-like symptoms’ that she had felt, intensely, in the first four years after the assault, and intermittently thereafter. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, forgetting his recitation of ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ during a Senate filibuster, called it ‘one of the most shameful events in the history of the United States Senate.’

“Again and again, Kavanaugh, 53, was described by his supporters as a victim — not of Ford, because of course, it's no longer acceptable to publicly attack a victim of sexual assault — but of Democrats. Ford, they said, was a victim, too. Of Democrats. Just as I believed Anita Hill in 1991, I believe Christine Blasey Ford. I wouldn't put Kavanaugh in jail for what he did when he was 17, but I sure as hell wouldn't put him on the Supreme Court” (Do we really want a man consumed with rage, self-pity and hate on the Supreme Court? by Robin Abcarian).


  1. In a recent discussion on moral principles and their dependence upon moral traits and dispositions in my General Ethics class at Benedictine University, we determined that honesty, integrity, kindness, conscientiousness, humility, temperance, fortitude, courage, gratitude, compassion, sympathy, fairness, prudence, self-restraint, and sincerity are the traits of moral character and disposition; that “morality must foster the development of such dispositions and habits… [and that we] develop manifest fixed dispositions to find out what the right thing is and to do it…”

  2. The principles of justice, equality, beneficence, liberty and utility depend upon moral traits of character, the basis or standard by which judgments should be made.

  3. Let Us Not Forget:

    WASHINGTON, D.C., July 24, 2018 – “…Our research so far indicates serious concerns about Brett Kavanaugh’s record on health care, on reproductive rights, civil rights and presidential power,” said Alliance For Justice (AFJ) President Nan Aron. “Based on what we have seen, we strongly oppose his confirmation to the Supreme Court. At the same time we recognize that the available documents are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the totality of Kavanaugh’s record. Senators must insist on access to all documents from Kavanaugh’s White House years, especially since there are more and more questions about some of his more extreme views and suggestions that presidents can be above the law.”

    Among other things, AFJ’s new report finds:

    There is every reason to believe that if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh would provide a vote to take health care away from millions of people.

    Kavanaugh will meet President Trump’s litmus test of “automatically” overturning or undermining Roe v. Wade.

    Kavanaugh has indicated that he does not believe sitting presidents should be indicted, has argued for a president’s power to remove a special counsel at will, and questioned the Supreme Court ruling that ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes.

    Kavanaugh has repeatedly ruled against efforts to combat climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gases. He also repeatedly ruled against protections for clean air.

    He has repeatedly sided with the wealthy and the powerful over all Americans. He has fought consumer protections in the areas of automobile safety, financial services, and a free and open internet.

    Kavanaugh has also repeatedly ruled against workers, workplace protections and safety regulations.

    Kavanaugh’s troubling record on civil rights includes rulings denying employees protection against discrimination, and upholding a South Carolina voter photo ID law that disproportionately disadvantaged people of color.

    Kavanaugh has ruled in ways that favor expansive use of government power, including a ruling in favor of allowing the government to access data on consumers’ phone records in bulk.

    Kavanaugh has been hostile to the rights of the accused, and appeared to speak favorably of former Chief Justice Rehnquist for pursuing exceptions to the exclusionary rule that is meant to keep illegally obtained evidence out of court.

    Kavanaugh has taken a narrow view of the lawfulness of modern-day gun safety measures.

    Kavanaugh has shown disregard for the rights of immigrant workers, ruling that they are not protected by labor laws…

  4. “This is America where a white man being accused of rape, gang rape, and sexual assault during a job interview can yell at the interviewers, float conspiracy theories, talk about his love of beer and hatred of the left, and still be considered for the job for the rest of his life”—Bernie Sanders.

  5. “Since the Kavanaugh accusations have come out, the House just gave the 1% ANOTHER massive tax cut; the Senate gave the military $700 billion; the U.S. has reaffirmed its commitment to a never-ending supply of weapons for Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen; Israel continues to commit genocide against Palestinians using U.S. tax dollars and weapons (they just murdered more protesters at the border of Gaza, including a 12-year-old boy, yesterday), and (I just found out) that the State Department advised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to pursue diplomacy with Iran, but congress said no because peace would not be profitable for the weapons manufacturer, Raytheon.

    “But I'm not going to say that the Kavanaugh allegations are a 'distraction' from the 'real news'. The fact that Kavanaugh has a history of abusing women is RELEVANT to all these other things. ALL of these things are emblematic of the hierarchical, white supremacist, militarist, colonialist, imperialist, capitalist patriarchy we are living in.

    “The fact that Kavanaugh wrote parts of the Patriot Act and that he dismissed the war crime allegations (including, *very significantly*, mass rape and extreme sexual degradation and humiliation) at Abu Ghraib is not separate from him being an abuser of women in his personal life.

    “Every single one of these things comes from a place of hierarchy, domination, and supreme entitlement. Every single one of these things comes from being so removed from the consequences of actions, so cocooned in an air-tight, vacuum-packed bubble of privilege, that what may ruin someone else's entire life, whether that be through murdering their loved ones, blowing off their limbs, forcing them into destitution, raping them or their loved ones, or killing them, is not even a blip on his radar.

    “And every single one of these things comes from being drunk, not just on alcohol but on power. So no, talking about his history of sexual violence isn't a 'distraction' from the 'real issues'. We need to attack the source of these problems, not pit them against one another in terms of which ones are worthy of attention and which ones aren't. That sort of compartmentalized thinking is exactly what has led to the mess we're in in the first place”—Laura Schleifer.

  6. “…To be sure, Clarence Thomas was defiant. But what we got from Kavanaugh was sputtering, tearful grievance. Even worse was his audience-of-one belligerence, his talking over senators, his smug, rude and petulant behavior overall, not to mention his bald partisanship. The entire spectacle was one long ‘but you promised’ tantrum of a grown man denied what he seems to believe is his.

    “And after Kavanaugh got jammed up by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on his refusal to support or call on the White House to request an FBI investigation into the allegations against him, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) came through with his own galling display of entitlement.

    “‘Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham,’ said an animated Graham. He went on to say, ‘To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.’ This from the man who supported the unconscionable and destructive strategy of denying Merrick Garland even a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when he was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2016.

    “Imagine if Thomas had acted out as Kavanaugh did. Imagine if Christine Blasey Ford had behaved the way Kavanaugh did. You can’t. Thanks to the racism and misogyny tightly woven into our national DNA, both Thomas and Ford knew they couldn’t get away with it and wouldn’t be believed if they had. Their dilemma is one faced by untold millions of Americans hourly. But the histrionics of Graham and Kavanaugh showed once again how hell hath no fury like an entitled white man denied. No humility. No contrition. No humanity beyond his narrow interests…” (The Washington Post).

  7. “Is it likely that Kavanaugh’s transgressions represent an entire bank of behavior, not a momentary stumble in one’s life’s experience, given that we can expect continued information and spectators to his questionable actions to come forward in the next week – and if confirmed – after his ascension to the highest court in the land?

    “How one assumes the position of jurist on the Supreme Court of the United States given what has occurred, the partisan firestorm, the accumulating charges and memories of those who recall the man who ‘loved beer,’ becomes difficult for most of us to comprehend.

    “When does one call it an unworthy charge into the Valley of (professional & reputational) Death? When does one look at the family and say, ‘Enough!’? When does one realize that the current administration will now let him hang and swing rather than admit he was serviceable to their desperate need to find cover from an oncoming investigation?”—John Dillon.

  8. One of the ethical philosophers my students will be introduced to tonight is Francis Herbert Bradley (1846-1924). He was an ethical cognitivist. Cognitivism claims that ethical language expresses ethical beliefs about how the world is and should be (ethics as a state of mind). To believe that rape is wrong, for instance, is to believe that the sentence, Rape is wrong, is true.

    In Bradley’s book, entitled Ethical Studies (1876), he claims that moral responsibility means that a person must answer for some or all things that he or she has done. Thus, to be morally responsible, a person must be capable of making moral distinctions.

  9. “…What does it say about this country that this is the state of our discourse? That Kavanaugh even stands any chance of being made one of the most powerful figures in the American government, with control over life and liberty? That a man like this is even a judge? He went before the United States Senate and showed total contempt for his vow to tell the truth. He attempted to portray a highly esteemed doctor as a crazy person, by consistently misrepresenting the evidence. He treated the public like we were idiots, like we wouldn’t notice as he pretended he was ralphing during Beach Week from too many jalapeños, as he feigned ignorance about sex slang, as he misread his own meticulously-kept 1982 summer calendar, as he replied to questions about his drinking habits by talking about church, as he suggested there are no alcoholics at Yale, as he denied knowing who ‘Bart O’Kavanaugh’ could possibly be based on, as he declared things refuted that weren’t actually refuted, as he claimed witnesses said things they didn’t say, as he failed to explain why nearly a dozen Yale classmates said he drank heavily, as he invented an imaginary drinking game to avoid admitting he had the mind of a sports jock in high school, as he said Ford had only accused him last week, as he responded to his roommate’s eyewitness statement with an incoherent story about furniture, as he pretended Bethesda wasn’t five miles wide, as he insisted Renate should be flattered by the ditty about how easy she was, as he declared that distinguished federal judges don’t commit sexual misconduct even though he had clerked for exactly such a judge. And what does it say about us, and our political system, that he might well get away with it?” (How We Know Kavanaugh Is Lying by Nathan J. Robinson).